Friday 10 February 2012

The Tombs of Saints Brigid and Conleth at Kildare

Below is the famous description of the church at Kildare from the Life of Saint Brigid by Cogitosus. In it the hagiographer describes the tombs of Saints Brigid and Conleth, as well as painting a fascinating picture of the church and its practices. Cogitosus was himself most probably a monastic at Kildare and his Life is usually dated to the third quarter of the seventh century.

Neither should one pass over in silence the miracle wrought in the repairing of the church in which the glorious bodies of both - namely Archbishop Conleth and our most flourishing virgin Brigit - are laid on the right and left of the ornate altar and rest in tombs adorned with a refined profusion of gold, silver, gems and precious stones with gold and silver chandaliers hanging from above and different images presenting a variety of carvings and colours. Thus, on account of the growing number of the faithful of both sexes, a new reality is born in an age-old setting, that is a church with its spacious [site] and its awesome height towering upwards. It is adorned with painted pictures and inside there are three chapels which are spacious and divided by board walls under the single roof of the cathedral church. The first of these walls, which is painted with pictures and covered with wall hangings, stretches width-wise in the east part of the church from one wall to the other. In it there are two doors, one at either end, and through the door situated on the right, one enters the sanctuary to the altar where the Archbishop offers the Lord's sacrifice together with his monastic chapter and those appointed to the sacred mysteries. Through the other door, situated on the left side of the aforesaid cross-wall, only the abbess and her nuns and faithful widows enter to partake of the banquet of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The second of these walls divides the floor of the building into two equal parts and stretches from the west wall to the wall running across the church. This church contains many windows and one finely wrought portal on the right side through which the priests and the faithful of the male sex enter the church, and a second portal on the left side through which the nuns and congregation of women faithful are accustomed to enter. And so, in one vast basilica, a congregation of people of varying status, rank, sex and local origin, with partitions placed between them, prays to the omnipotent Master, differing in status, but one in spirit.
S. Connolly and J-M Picard, 'Cogitosus's Life of Saint Brigit - content and value' in JRSAI, 117, (1987), 25-6.

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